The state-owned ferry was taking passengers from Hatteras to Ocracoke on the Outer Banks. The captain and a crew member decided to hoist a “Trump 2020” campaign flag during the journey. And the two have now been suspended for a week without pay for that.
The suspensions were for “unacceptable personal conduct,” NC Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division spokesman Tim Hass told The Charlotte Observer in an interview Friday.
NC law bars state employees from using state money, supplies or vehicles “to secure support for or oppose any candidate, party, or issue in an election involving candidates for office or party nominations ...” according to NC General Statute 126-13.
“No matter one’s political affiliation, putting any sort of campaign material on a state-owned vessel is not appropriate,” Hass told The Coastland Times, which first reported the suspensions on Friday afternoon.
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The suspensions stemmed from an investigation by the NC Ferry Division and NC Department of Transportation’s Employee Relations Division, Hass told the Observer. The investigation began after Catherine Mitchell posted a photo of the flag on July 26 in the community section of the North Carolina Ferry System Facebook page.
“I love our ferries. I love our ferry personnel. This does not make me happy,” Mitchell’s post said, as reported by The News & Observer. “I’m sorry, but is this legal? How would the person who flew this flag feel about a Hillary Clinton flag instead? I thought that government services were supposed to serve everyone and not be political.”
The flag was flown during a late run from Hatteras to Ocracoke, The Virginian-Pilot reported at the time.
Hass declined to release the names of the employees who were suspended when the Observer requested the names on Friday. He said he would check with state officials as to whether he could legally release the names.